The Rosetta spacecraft has been chasing comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for more than a decade. Now, with arrival less than a week away, the distance between the spacecraft and its quarry is rapidly shrinking. Meanwhile, Rosetta continues to return clearer and clearer images of the double-lobed "rubber ducky comet."
The image above was captured Tuesday by Rosetta's OSIRIS (Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System) narrow-angle camera, from a distance of 1,950 km (about 1200 miles), giving the image a resolution of about 37 meters per pixel. For reference, here's what 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko looked like earlier this month, at a distance of 14,000 km:
In the latest image, surface features of the 2-mile-wide comet, including the bright band encircling the rubber ducky's "neck," are just becoming visible.
Rosetta is slated to rendezvous with the comet next Wednesday and drop a lander called Philae onto its surface in November. If successful, the mission will provide us with unprecedented insight into the nature of comets as they approach our Sun.
For more updates on the spacecraft's progress in the coming days, follow along with us over at ESA's Cometwatch.